Warts — Northeast Dermatology | SKIN Dermatology

Warts

Medical Dermatology

Warts are growths caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). They are very common, often in school-aged children. However, adults can develop warts too. Warts are generally caused by direct contact to other areas of the body, or to others.

Growth and Origin

HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact or autoinoculation. Meaning, if a wart if scratched or picked, the viral particles may spread to other areas of the skin. The incubation period can last up to twelve months before a wart will appear. The HPV virus enters the skin through a small crack or scratch in the skin. This explains why warts often appear around fingernails or areas of dry, cracked skin.  Once the HPV enters into the skin, it begins replicating, producing bumps that are thicker than the surrounding skin. Warts can sometimes be different colors or flesh toned. They typically are painless, although can be bothersome when on the bottom of the feet. Many people are exposed to the HPV virus but don’t develop warts. This is because the body’s immune system recognizes and fights the HPV virus, eliminating the ability for the wart to grow. Even when warts appear, in some cases they go away without any treatment. Once the body recognizes the virus is foreign, it begins attacking the HPV cells, preventing a wart from being able to grow. Warts generally will go away without treatment in 2 years in children, and 5 to 7 years in adults.

Classification of Warts

Warts can be classified based on appearance and location.

  • Common warts often appear in clusters. They can appear anywhere on the skin, often in areas of dry, cracked skin.
  • Flat warts are often found on the face and legs. They tend to be smaller and harder to see. They can also be easily spread while shaving.
  • Plantar warts are found on the bottom of the feet. The weight of the body often can make these warts painful.

Treating Warts

There are several options when considering treatment for warts:

  • Over the counter preparations often include salicylic acid that is applied in liquid or bandage form.
  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Prescription topical creams.
  • Injections

Warts can recur even after treatment. They often need multiple treatments.